Does Status Matter? The Contradictions in Locke’s Account of the State of Nature

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 95 (1):87-105 (2013)
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: The aim of this paper is to analyse the status of Locke’s state of nature and to examine whether the distinction between different theoretical perspectives can help to resolve the apparent contradictions between Locke’s ‘peaceful’ and his ‘warlike’ description of the natural state, a claim that has been made by commentators such as R. Ashcraft, J. Dunn and H. Aarsleff. Though, it is argued, distinguishing different state of nature accounts in Locke is essential for an appropriate understanding of Locke’s argument, the attempt to thereby free Locke of the charge of inconsistency fails. The reason is that the ‘peaceful’ and the ‘warlike’ description are equally part of Locke’s anthropological analysis. They can, therefore, not be reconciled by distinguishing between a ‘moral’ account of the state of nature on the one hand and an empirical account on the other.



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